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North Korea
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North Korea

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; Korean: Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk; Hangul: 조선민주주의인민공화국; Hanja: 朝鮮民主主義人民共和國), is a country in eastern Asia, covering the northern half of the peninsula of Korea. To the south it borders South Korea with which it formed a single nation until 1948. Its northern border is predominantly with China, and a small section with Russia. It is more commonly known locally as Pukchosŏn ("North Chosŏn"; 북조선; 北朝鮮). Bukhan ("North Han"; 북한; 北韓) is commonly used in South Korea.

Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
(In Detail)
National motto: One is sure to win if one believes in and depends upon the people
Official languageKorean
Capital P'yŏngyang;
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North KoreaKim Jong-il1
President, Presidium of the Supreme People's AssemblyKim Yong-nam2
PremierPak Pong-ju
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 97th
120,540 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 48th
 - Date
From Japan
August 15, 1945
Currency North Korean won
Time zone UTC +9
National anthem Achimŭn pinnara;
Internet TLDNone (.kp is reserved)
Calling Code850
(1) Kim Jong Il is the most powerful figure in the DPRK; the Chairman of the National Defence Commission is accorded the nation's "highest administrative authority"
(2) Kim Yong-nam is the de facto head of state; Kim Il-sung is "Eternal President of the Republic"

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces and Cities
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture & Tourism
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links
10 Further reading


Main article: History of North Korea. For pre-1945 history, see Korea.

Japanese occupation of Korea ended after World War II in 1945. Then, Korea was occupied by the Soviet Union north of the 38th Parallel and by the United States south of the 38th parallel. The United States suppressed an existing network of local Peoples Committees; meanwhile Cold War tensions rose. This led in 1948 to the establishment of two governments claiming to be the sole government of all of Korea: a communist regime in the North, and an anti-communist regime in the South. In June 1950, the (North) Korean People's Army attacked the South, launching the Korean War. The United States-backed South and the Chinese-backed North signed an armistice in 1953. This armistice was not considered permanent, and split the peninsula along a Demilitarized Zone along the 38th Parallel; the reality is that it has been a long-term stalemate.

North Korea was ruled from 1948 by Kim Il-sung until his death on June 8, 1994. After the death of Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong-il was named General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party on October 8, 1997. In 1998, the legislature reconfirmed him as Chairman of the National Defence Commission and declared that position as the "highest office of state." International relations generally improved, and there was a historic North-South summit in June 2000. However, tensions recently increased when North Korea resumed its nuclear weapons programme.


Main article: Politics of North Korea

North Korea's government is dominated by the communist Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), to which all government officials belong. Minor political parties exist, but not in opposition to WPK-rule.

In practice the exact power structure of the country is somewhat unclear.

Nominally the Prime Minister is the head of government, but real power lies with Kim Jong Il (the son of late Kim Il Sung), the head of the Workers' Party and the military. Kim holds a string of official titles, the most important being General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (조선로동당 총비서), Chairman of the National Defence Commission (국방위원회 위원장), and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army (조선인민군 최고사령관). Within the country he is commonly known by the affectonate title of "Dear Leader." The title of president is not granted to Kim, as the late Kim Il Sung is considered to be the "Eternal President", occupying the presidency even after his death.

North Korea's 1972 constitution was amended in late 1992 and again in 1998. Under the constitution, the government of the republic is led by the Prime Minister and, in theory, a super cabinet called the Central People's Committee (CPC), the government's top policymaking body. The CPC is headed by the President, who also nominates the other committee members. The CPC makes policy decisions and supervises the Cabinet, or State Administration Council (SAC). SAC is headed by a Premier and is the dominant administrative and executive agency.

Officially, the parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly (최고인민회의; Choego Inmin Hoeui), is the highest organ of state power. Its 687 members are elected every four years by popular vote, although these elections are non-competitive and in practice ceremonial. Usually it holds only two annual meetings, each lasting a few days, but it mostly ratifies decisions made by the ruling KWP. A standing committee elected by the Assembly performs legislative functions when the Assembly is not in session.

Provinces and Cities

Main article: Administrative divisions of Korea. For historical information, see Provinces of Korea and Special cities of Korea.

As of 2003, North Korea consists of 9 Provinces (Do, singular and plural; ; ) 3 Directly Governed [Self-Governing] Cities (Chik'alshi, singular and plural; 직할시; 直轄市), and several other regions, as listed below. (Names are romanized according to the McCune-Reischauer system as officially used in North Korea; the editor was also guided by the spellings used on the 2003 National Geographic map of Korea).

Ch'ŏngjin; City (청진시; 淸津市) used to be a self-governing city, but is now part of North Hamgyŏng Province. The source for this section is located at Chosun Ilbo's http://nk.chosun.com/map/map.html?ACT=geo_01 page (but is only in Korean).


Main article: Geography of North Korea

Korea forms a peninsula that extends 1,100 km from the Asian mainland. To the west it borders the West Sea (Yellow Sea) and the Korea Bay; to the east it borders the East Sea of Korea (Sea of Japan). The peninsula ends at the Korea Strait (Tsushima Strait) and the South Sea (East China Sea) to the south. The peninsula's northern part (including North Korea) has mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys in the north and east, and has coastal plains prominently in the west. The highest point in Korea is the Paektu-san at 2,744 m. Major rivers include the Tumen and the Yalu that form the northern border with Chinese Manchuria.

The local climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma, and winters that can be bitterly cold on occasion. North Korea's capital and largest city is P'yongyang; other major cities include Kaesong in the south, Sinuiju in the northwest, Wonsan and Hamhung in the east and Chongjin in the north.


Main article: Economy of North Korea

Following the official ideology of Juche (self-reliance), North Korea has developed independently of global capitalist economies. The resulting economic development and the government's refusal to publicise economic data limit the amount of reliable information available. Publicly-owned industry produces nearly all manufactured goods. The regime continues to focus on heavy military industry at the expense of agriculture.

The North Korean military's effect on the economy cannot be underestimated. The government spends 33.9% of the nation's GDP on military (Compared to 3.2% for the U.S. and 1.4% spent by neighboring South Korea), and has recruited 1.2 million of the healthiest young men into the army. This focus on military spending is unheard of anywhere else in the world, and has severely depressed the North's economy for decades.

In addition, a five-decade United States embargo, erratic policymaking, a series of natural disasters, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc have all caused the economy to stagnate. The agricultural outlook is terrible and food products are deliberately funneled away from citizens and into the military. The combined effects of a reclusive regime, serious fertilizer shortages, successive natural disasters, and structural constraints - such as little arable land and a short growing season - have reduced staple grain output to more than 1 million tons less than what the country needs to meet even minimum international requirements.

North Korea previously received a flow of international food and fuel aid from China and the United States in exchange for promises not to develop nuclear weapons. This aid has ceased since the North Korean regime revealed that it had been developing nuclear weapons in secret.

The steady flow of international food aid was critical in meeting the population's basic food needs; it has been widely believed that very little of this food aid was actually received by citizens, but was instead taken and given to the military in order to improve loyalty. Malnutrition rates are perhaps among the world's highest and estimates of mortality range in the hundreds of thousands or even millions as a direct result of malnutrition and famine-related diseases. Information regarding the DPRK is chronically unreliable.


Main article: Demographics of North Korea

North Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world, with only very small Chinese and Japanese communities. Korean language is not a member of a wider linguistic family, though links to Japanese and Altaic languages are being considered. The Korean writing system, Hangul, was invented in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great to replace the system of Chinese characters, known in Korea as Hanja, which are no longer officially in use in the North. North Korea continues to use the McCune-Reischauer romanisation of Korean, in contrast to the South's revised version.

Korea has a Buddhist and Confucianist heritage, with Christian and traditional Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way") communities. Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, was the center of Christian activity before the Korean War.

Culture & Tourism

Main article: Culture of North Korea

North Korea's government is extremely reclusive, and as such, very few foreigners enter the country. No foreigners are allowed to travel with a great degree of freedom, and government minders are assigned to watch all visitors outside of closed tour areas at all times. In principle any person is allowed to travel to North Korea, and in practice almost no-body is refused entry.

Citizens of South Korea require special government permission from both governements to enter North Korea. In recent years, Mt. Kumgang, a scenic mountain close to the South Korea border, has been designated as a special tourist destination, where South Korean citizens do not need special permissions. Tours run by private companies bring thousands of South Koreans to Mt. Kumgang every year.

In July 2004, the Complex of Koguryo Tombs was the first site in North Korea to be included into the UNESCO list of World Heritage.

See also: Culture of Korea, List of Koreans, Korean cuisine, Music of Korea

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Further reading

[ Edit {}] Countries in East Asia
China (PRC) | Japan | North Korea | South Korea | Taiwan (ROC)